Saturday, February 05, 2011

A Portrait of Late-Term Abortion Demand in Montreal and Beyond #prolife

I recently discovered a very interesting document that touched upon the subject of late-term abortion in Montreal (and beyond, as you will find out). The document consists of the speaking notes of a presentation entitled Accessibility to Abortion Services in Quebec, during a conference whose theme was: Twenty Years After the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler Decision: Where are we Now? The presentation was given on February 3rd, 2010 by Suzanne Carrière, Director of “Specific Services” (that’s the name in French!) of the CSSS Jeanne-Mance. (A CSSS is a kind of regional health authority that groups a number of health and social service centres.) This CSSS is located in the heart of Montreal.

First she starts off her presentation by giving some background information on the history and legality of abortion in Canada. No big surprises, although I had not been aware that Quebec CLSC’s were doing abortions illegally before the Morgentaler decision. (A CLSC is a government-funded community health clinic.)

I note that the presentation doesn’t say a whole lot about accessibility with regards to first trimester abortions. It suggests that there does not appear to be an accessibility issue with respect to first trimester abortions. The crux of her speech deals with late-term abortions. Now, one thing you have to keep in mind about Quebec is that the medical/abortion culture there defines “late-term abortion” in a way that’s different from the rest of Anglophone America, and possibly even the world. In Quebec, “late-term abortions” take place after 14 weeks of gestation, as opposed to the typical 20- or 24- week gestation limit that is used in the rest of the world.

I wonder if this is perhaps a legacy of Henry Morgentaler, who was uncomfortable with abortions after 14 weeks and claims never to have done any past 16 weeks. But this is pure speculation on my part. It would be an interesting study to conduct.

Notwithstanding the differences in terminology, we’ll be dealing with very post-viability abortions soon enough, as you will see.

The major accessibility issue that she addresses is that of having to send post-viability abortion cases from Quebec to the United States (Past 22 weeks).

And here’s where it gets interesting so pay attention!

Mme Carrière asks: why, in 2010, are we obliged to refer late-term abortion cases to the United States?

She says in spite of the good faith of a few doctors involved in late-term abortion, they must refer late-term abortion cases after 24 weeks to the United States. (Wait, it gets better!)

At 24 weeks or later the only women who have a certain background can obtain such late-term abortions in Quebec because they cannot cross the U.S. border.

• Women with immigrations problems, (possible e.g. illegal aliens, dubious refugee status… sex traffic victims?)

• Women with drug problems

• Women whose babies have a congenital malformation (I suspect Quebec doctors willing to do those)

• Women with a criminal record

And even then, the doctors agree to the abortion on a case-by-case basis.

It amused me when I read this because I thought to myself: if the doctors are ready to do abortions on drug addicts, what makes abortions on non-drug addicted women less disgusting? I understand they don’t want to deliver crack babies, but it’s just as disgusting to kill a healthy baby as a sick one.

So if you’re a woman who plays by the rules, you don’t get a late-term abortion past 24 weeks in Quebec. You don’t “deserve” one, as feminists say. But if you commit a serious felony and get pregnant and want an abortion, you “deserve” one.

This data is extremely important with regards to the controversy over the debate about how many late-term abortions take place in Canada. Because it suggests that healthy women citizens with healthy babies who want abortions past 24 weeks are the ones who get sent to the US. It makes you wonder because…in the US there are medical requirements to get third trimester abortions. For instance, there is mention of George Tiller’s Wichita clinic as a destination. One wonders whether these Canadian women were referred to his clinic with healthy babies and had the abortion requests and forms rubber-stamped. It also raises interesting political issues for Canadians: are Canadian women being sent to the US for illegal late-term abortions? Is due diligence being observed to make sure that Canadian medical officials are following US laws? Inquiring minds want to know. If any American pro-life activists have any information speaking to that question, I would be grateful if you let me know.

Mme Carrière goes on to say that the majority of doctors and nursing personnel refuse to practice late-term abortions past 24 weeks.

Here’s another little interesting tidbit: the logistics of late-term abortion.

The speaker says that the logistics are very difficult. The flight to the destination can be difficult because some people have never been on a plane before.

The second difficulty is shelter.

The third difficulty is that many women are unilingual francophones. Can you imagine going to Wichita or Boulder and not speaking English?

The fourth difficulty is the one that bugs me the most. She says that it’s the solitude, in that many women cannot afford to bring someone with them due to the travel costs.
There are all kinds of scenarios that could happen that make this so wrong. What happens if the woman starts to haemorrhage while she’s in the plane or in the airport? What if she starts to miscarry? What if the abortionist is incompetent and she has fetal tissue inside of her after she leaves the facility? If she’s alone and she can’t speak English, what the heck is she supposed to do?

You can’t go to a Morgentaler clinic in this country without somebody accompanying you. If you show up alone, they rebook your appointment. What are we doing sending pregnant women thousands of kilometres away without a bilingual companion?

Mme Carrière notes that just recently the clinic in New York to which they refer cases between 22 and 24 weeks just required that women be accompanied.

I do not know the name of this clinic. If anyone knows of the clinic in New York (not sure if it’s city or state) that handles Canadian women between 22 and 24 weeks, please let me know. I suspect there might be more than one.

At this point, the speaker gives information about statistics regarding late-term abortions that are processed by the CLSC des Faubourgs in Montreal. This CLSC handles the requests for late-term abortions where the women have to be sent to the United States. It’s also a facility that commits abortions.

The first table gives stats on the number of abortions done there broken down by age group (youth and adults) and according to gestation (up to 14 weeks; 15 to 20 weeks inclusive).






Abortions up to 14 weeks:

Youth (-18 yrs)



Adults (18 yrs +)





Abortions 15 to 20 weeks:

Youth (-18 yrs)





Adults (18 yrs +)










Between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009, the percentage of early abortions done on youth was down by 19%.

In the same time period, the number of such abortions went up by 70% for adults.

Regarding abortions 15-20 weeks:

For youth, the number remained stable during the period under review.

For adults, the numbers went up by 129%. You have to wonder how that happened.

As for the total number of abortions, they went up by 54%.

It makes you wonder if there really is an abortion accessibility problem. Perhaps this is why Mme. Carrière focused on the late-term abortion issue. But that’s pure speculation on my part.

The second table she presents deals with the places where late-term abortions are referred to (and by this it is meant those above 20 weeks)



New York


































The CLSC des Faubourgs does not do abortions past 20 weeks. So they must be delegated to other facilities. Abortions up until 24 weeks can be performed in Quebec, as was mentioned above. The abortion centres are located in Sherbrooke, Ste-Justine Hospital and St. Luke Hospital. Note, that these are probably not the only late-term abortion facilities in Quebec, just the ones that perform abortions for women in Montreal and surrounding regions.

The 2009-2010 figures are not given as the presentation is given in February of 2010. However, what this indicates is that in the wake of George Tiller’s assassination, cases that would have been referred to Wichita now are sent to Boulder, Colorado.

What I find interesting is that even though Wichita is closer than Boulder, Boulder took in more cases.

Out 239 late-term abortions cases referred to the CLSC, 130 were sent to the United States, at a cost of approximately $5000 each, which is reimbursed by the government.

The third table documents the place of origin of the women seeking post-viability abortions at the CLSC de Faubourgs from January 2008-October 2009.

Place of Origin:


Periphery of



No. of abortions in
Wichita (24 wks +)





No. of abortions in
Boulder (24 wks. +)





No. of abortions in
New York (22 to 24 wks.)





TOTAL according to origin:





Notwithstanding the distance, Boulder Colorado still got the most business.

The periphery of the Montreal consists of regions just outside of the Island of Montreal.

The distant regions are located far north and would be more convenient for travel due to available flights.

The regions : Drummondville, Valleyfield, Baie James, Sept-Îles, Rimouski, Laval, Longueuil.

Note that there are no cases from Quebec City or Trois-Rivières. They would almost surely refer their cases to hospitals in Quebec City. But I cannot confirm the names at this point.

In the last part of her presentation, Mme Carrière tells of an anecdote concerning a woman who “needed” an abortion after 30 weeks whose case was handled by the CSSS Jeanne-Mance. It was discovered that the woman’s unborn child had serious congenital anomalies. She faced several ethics committees which took the necessary dispositions to have her case sent to the United States. After making a request [to an American clinic], her abortion was denied because of the risk to the mother’s health due to long distance travel. The speaker would not give more details, but she said she made great efforts to get this woman an abortion.

When the baby was born, the baby’s health was even worse than they had thought. She, the dad and her other children spoke to a psychologist. She phoned back to thank the staff “for having believed in her.”

She those kinds of services (ones peripheral to abortion/congenital anomalies) constitute “accessibility.”

I wish they’d promote that “accessibility” a little more.